It was the same old story. Except this time, the ending was refreshingly different. A bunch of politicians from Goa were packing their bags for a 10-day ‘study trip’ to Brazil on taxpayer’s money to watch the ongoing FIFA World Cup.
The total amount: Rs 89 lakh. Their chief minister tried to justify this decision explaining that since their state held football tournaments regularly, this trip would benefit them. What lessons the Fisheries Minister or Power Minister could learn from a football World Cup is anyone’s guess.
The lesser said about the other trip-happy MLAs the better. Ethics seemed to have been kicked out of this arena. Public outcry, and media onslaught was immediate, and relentless for days on end. Former Indian football team captains, and Arjuna Awardees cried foul.
Finally, under pressure, the much-maligned bunch of six politicians had to come out with a statement that they were going to Brazil, but on their own money. One shudders to wonder that while these six got unlucky in their attempt traipse off for a fun trip on our money, how many of their ilk have gotten away on a zillion occasions prior to this, and even now, as you read this column?
How often have we got wind of ministers and babus take off to exotic lands for these much-needed study tours? We’ve spelt out this concern in this column earlier, of such so called well-meaning initiatives by state governments, where the public is made to believe that these officials and politicians will return with a wealth of information to share, and incorporate in our cities and villages.
Hard to believe, right? If it were the case, wouldn’t these same people go to great lengths to ensure it made headlines? So, the curse continues. But one is hopeful still that this rethink by the six is a step in the right direction, and keeps governing bodies across India on high alert to avoid a repeat of such embarrassments.
After all, the public is watching, and isn’t foolish to stay quiet. Not anymore. And yes, we’ll be waiting to hear if these same names return to put their acquired knowledge from the World Cup to good use.
The writer is Features Editor of mid-day